OccupyMaine camp given evacuation extension until Friday

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Now, the handful of protesters still in the park are waiting to see what happens next.

The City of Portland has extended OccupyMaine’s deadline for clearing out of Lincoln Park until 8 a.m. Friday, according to an email from the protesters’ attorney, John Branson. 

“Folks can continue to stay overnight through Thursday night,” he wrote to occupiers shortly before noon Monday. The city had originally told the activists to clean up and vacate the park by 8 a.m. Monday morning.

Over the weekend, protesters removed all the communal structures that had been erected over the four-month occupation, including their library, kitchen and spiritual dome.

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But Branson said more time is needed to find housing for several homeless protesters. The city has secured housing through its General Assistance for three occupiers, but there are still more without someplace to go.

As the deadline approached Monday morning, OccupyMaine member Harry Brown, 59, raised an American flag on the flagpole at the center of the camp and set it on fire.

Brown said the city is destroying the symbol of OccupyMaine’s message by evicting the group from the park, and that burning the symbol of America was meant to parallel the eviction.

“This symbol has served it’s purpose,” he said. “It no longer stands for what it once did.”

Most occupiers continued chatting or cleaning up, but a large group of news reporters, photographers and videographers surrounded Brown.

“I’m sure I’ll be written up as the radical activist who dared to burn a flag in the square,” he said. “But I love what this country stands for. … If the country is not where it should be, we have a right to fight and change it.”

Brown also said burning is the proper way to dispose of a flag.

City Manager Mark Rees on Thursday, Feb. 2, gave notice that OccupyMaine had until 8 a.m. Monday to strike the camp and clear out of Lincoln Park. The notice came a day after Maine Superior Court Judge Thomas Warren ruled the protesters did not have a right to stay in the park.

By Monday morning, occupiers had filled two industrial-size dumpsters provided by the city with debris and were working on a third. Protesters were cleaning out and taking down some of the 17 tents still standing in the park.

Most of the dozen or so Occupiers who camped in the park until the very end said they planned to leave the park peacefully, but many said a confrontation could come at 10 p.m. Monday, when the park officially closes. Nobody would say what that resistance would look like or how many people would be involved.

“Those who feel strongly about staying are free to do as they wish,” occupier Deseree Tanguay said. “Occupy is an aggregate of a lot of individual philosophies.”

But not everyone was excited about the possibility of resistance, or supportive of individual activists’ prerogatives.

“If they resist, it would look badly on us,” occupier Matt Coffey said Sunday. “The media, everyone else is going to lump us all together.”

OccupyMaine has been camping in Lincoln Park for four months in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. The groups oppose income inequality and corporate influence in politics and government.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.

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